Meralco to invest P19.2 B for ‘smart meters’ rollout

Power utility giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco) will be investing P19.2 billion in the next four years for the rollout of "intelligent meters" or advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for customers within its franchise area in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.

Atty Jose Ronald V. Valles, first vice president and head of regulatory affairs of Meralco, noted that for the initial year of rollout which is targeted in 2023, the AMI meters deployment will command investment of P4.5 billion.

For the succeeding years, the capital spending for smart meters will be P4.0 billion in the second year (2024); P5.0 billion in the third year (2025); and the bulk of P5.7 billion in the final year, 2026.

Valles said the rollout of AMI meters has been integrated into Meralco’s filing with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for tariff adjustment under its fifth regulatory reset that has been anchored on performance-based rate setting (PBR) methodology.

Geographically, Meralco emphasized that that half of installations will be in Metro Manila while the balance will be strategically deployed in various provinces in the power firm’s franchise area, such as in Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and parts of Batangas and Quezon.

The utility firm has so far piloted the rollout of smart meters for its prepaid electricity service (PRES), installing more than 100,000 meters two years ago. A separate regulatory approval will be required for a massive-scale deployments of AMIs.

Meralco initially targeted 1.0 million smart meters’ installation in 2020, but because of the health crisis, project plans as well regulatory actions on tariff-reset for power utilities were also moved.

Smart meters that include AMIs, which is a sub-set of smart grid innovation in the power sector, sets in place a system where the meter reader no longer needs to manually enter the numbers from the meter.

For the consumer in particular, one distinct advantage would be the information that may be provided in smart meters to guide them in managing their electricity consumption –that way, they can also manage their budgets.

These are also called “intelligent meters” because they offer two-way communication capabilities between the meters and the utility as well as through the entire electricity grid, enabling the utility to monitor processes or signals in the network more efficiently.

For the wider core of smart grid, it has been indicated that “the data that can be captured may include those that have eventual bearing on load forecasting, load growth, asset management, outage management and other operational efficiencies that can be instituted both at the consumer level and/or in the utility’s network.

As pointed out, the crucial first step is for Meralco to modernize its electric grid. Smart meters installation will be part of the comprehensive venture that has been targeted to reach that scale of modernization in its service ecosystem.